Guilds push quota-free trade pact

Showbiz labor unions have joined the industry’s battle for an international trade agreement that protects against quotas on foreign film and TV programs.

The heads of 10 entertainment industry unions sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Carla Hills urging rejection of any trade agreement that accepts quotas.

The issue is a controversial element in the so-called Uruguay Round of talks in the proposed General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT).

The Bush administration is trying to conclude a multinational trade pact before the president leaves office, but the agreement has stalled over the issue of French farm subsidies. The U.S. government’s long-sought protection against quotas has been linked to that impasse.

Program suppliers have been urging the U.S. government not to weaken on the quota issue. An unprecedented letter on the subject was sent recently by the studio head members of the Motion Picture Association of America.

Follows MPAA letter

A similar letter from labor union toppers reminds Hills that the film industry is the nation’s leading net exporter and “one of our most competitive and successful industries in world trade.”

It says the industry and its workers are “threatened by the air time and theater playing time quotas imposed against U.S. made audio/visual product by many governments,” including members of the European Community, Canada and Australia.

The letter was signed by Ron Silver (Actors’ Equity Association), Mark Tully Massagli (American Federation of Musicians), Reed Farrell (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), Nedda Casei (American Guild of Musical Artists), Alfred DiTolla (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees), John Barry (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers), James Nolan (National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians), Barry Gordon (Screen Actors Guild), Herb Sargent (Writers Guild of America, East) and Jack Golodner (Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO).

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